COMMENT

First form a government

By Costas Iordanidis

The decision to hold parliamentary elections on May 6 was an act of political folly. At a time of unprecedented crisis -- with more than a million unemployed while salaries and pensions are heading south -- organizing a ballot was bound to result in a humiliating performance for the two traditionally dominant political parties.

True, conservative New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras had repeatedly called for a snap election. Under Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK socialists eventually gave in to the pressure, deeming that the vote would help contain their decline. The expectations of both were defeated.

An overwhelming 60 percent of voters chose to turn their back on the EU-IMF memorandum. Parties on the fringes of the political spectrum were rewarded with parliamentary seats as Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), became the new main opposition leader.

Some analysts claim that a second round of elections following a campaign aimed at deconstructing Tsipras?s ?anti-European front? combined with the threat that our foreign lenders will stop providing bailout money to Greece would succeed in undermining the influence of this hard-left party.

Pollsters suggest Tsipras?s influence has steadily grown after the elections. The young politician is acting as if he is the winner and any threats of sanctions from the so-called troika will only boost his ratings further. Those who still have memories of the early years of the post-1974 period will remember that the attacks on PASOK leader Andreas Papandreou only strengthened his popularity among the electorate.

As a consequence, parties in the Greek Parliament urgently need to form a coalition government. One can see why Samaras and Venizelos are trying to engage Tsipras in a power-sharing administration or to extract a confession, as it were, that he wants to lead Greece out of the euro area. They are doomed to fail. Tsipras is sticking to his post of opposition leader.

New Democracy and PASOK will have a chance to deconstruct Tsipras in the future. Right now, their first priority should be the formation of a coalition government. The leaders of Greece?s pro-European parties must put their minds to work and come up with a solution during the meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias which is to follow after Venizelos returns the mandate.

As for Samaras?s proposal to rebuild the center-right, it will have to be discussed after the parties have formed a government of national unity, national emergency or whatever they chose to call it.

Online